Study Finds Gender Bias in Newspaper Stories

Article excerpt

THE "feminine mystique" is back. Media coverage of the Gulf War proves it.

As coined by Betty Friedan in her book of that title that some say began the modern women's movement in 1963, the term refers to women as defined by, or in relationship to, men: wife, mother, daughter, secretary et. al.

In a February study analyzing representation of women in the pages of United States newspapers, more than 85 percent of front page news and 70 percent of local, first-page news was devoted to men. The major newspapers studied were Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, The Miami Herald, The New York Times, St. Louis Post Dispatch, The Seattle Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

"The symbolic annihilation of women in the media reflects and contributes to the glass ceiling and backlash women are facing generally in the new world order of the 1990s," said Ms. Friedan, a visiting distinguished professor and co-chair of the Women, Men, and Media Project (WMAM) at the University of Southern California.

In a conversation before the study was released here last week, Friedan said she and organizers have been "outright shocked" at the low numbers in such studies, which grew out of a course she teaches at USC. "We knew there had been backsliding since the gains of the women's movement got women off the fashion and food pages, but we never thought it was this bad."

The establishment in April last year of WMAM as a permanent institution evolved from three successful conferences in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. since 1987. In a forum held last week at which the current study findings were released, US Marine and Navy officials, war correspondents, and media commentators discussed "Macho and Media Coverage of the Gulf War. …